CHRIS SUTTON has backed his former Celtic team-mate Neil Lennon in his sensational criticism of Leigh Griffiths.

The Hoops boss left the striker at home to work on his own at Lennoxtown while he took the squad to France to prepare for a crucial season ahead.

There was no sign of the 29-year-old Scotland international as Patryk Klimala stakes his claim for first-team football with the equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Nice on Thursday night.

Griffiths will be off the radar in Lyon this evening and he will be missing again when the champions travel to the French capital to take on Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

It is highly unlikely the frontman will be involved when Lennon’s men kick off their quest for 10 in a row against Hamilton Accies at Parkhead on Sunday, August 2.

Former Bhoys hitman Sutton, speaking in the Daily Record, said: “There’s always a danger when managers call out their players or squads in public and question their lack of commitment.

FLAG HAPPY…Neil Lennon with the Premiership trophy.

“But Neil Lennon was absolutely spot on to dig out Leigh Griffiths so strongly the other night.

“Lennon already made his feelings known by leaving him out of his squad for Loughborough and France.

“But he delivered the message loud and clear in Lyon and it just shows how badly let down he feels by the striker.

“I can’t remember ever hearing about a player left behind in pre-season because they are out of shape. I haven’t seen too many savaged in the media quite like this, either.

“But Lennon didn’t miss and it simply has to be a massive wake-up call for Griffiths. He’s fighting for his career right now – and not just his Celtic career.

“That’s not me being negative. It’s being realistic. Griffiths has a heck of a job now to get back in favour with his manager and if he is to let it slide now, where does he end up?

“He’s 30 years old next month. This is a stage where he should be looking after his body more than ever.

“There’s no doubt he’ll go down as a fantastic Celtic player and one of the best natural finishers Scottish football has seen.

“But he’s in danger of going out with a whimper and sliding down the divisions if he doesn’t shape up.”

The one-time England international continued: “I’ve got to be honest, I find this episode absolutely mind-boggling.

“Getting fit is the easy part of being a footballer. There can be times when your touch goes, you’re struggling in front of goal, can’t make a pass or you confidence is lacking.

“There are lots of ways to get those back, but getting in condition is the simple bit. It doesn’t take natural talent to put one foot in front of the other and do your running.

HOME ALONE…Leigh Griffiths has time to think about the future.

“I can’t get my head around it. No-one wanted to go through lockdown, but Griffiths should have seen it as an opportunity.

“He was back in the side and scoring crucial goals to help Celtic to the title last term, but he admitted himself he wasn’t quite 100 per cent.

“He had four months with absolutely nothing to do apart from getting himself in shape. It should have been a gift for him.

“To go the opposite way is staggering and it’s no wonder Lennon is livid. I’d be willing to bet there’s a few in the Celtic squad who feel the same way.

“They are doing the hard work to prepare for a monumental season. They will also want a fit and firing Griffiths on board, but if he’s not pulling his weight then they are having to carry a passenger.

“They won’t be impressed with the social media stuff, either. It’s no use Griffiths posting quotes from Rocky – it’s meaningless if he’s dodged the work he was meant to have done during the lockdown.”

Sutton added: “Griffiths knows the hard work it took him to get to the level he reached. He’s had to deal with personal issues and I have given him credit for returning when there were plenty of folk who felt he was finished.

“But that’s why it’s so hard to understand how he could be in this position now. Does he want to be 31 or 32 and a Second Division striker telling people he used to play for Celtic?

“Or does he want to get his act together and be part of a Champions League team or a side that wins 10 in a Row?

“That’s up to him, but it’s a long way back. You look at Patryk Klimala the other night. His goal was scrappy in some ways, but Lennon would have loved seeing him chasing down a lost cause, charging down the keeper and getting his reward.

“It showed his hunger. He’s come back fitter and stronger, so who do you think Lennon will trust right now? It won’t be the guy who sat on the couch for four months, that’s for sure.

“Lennon has issued his warning and Griffiths has to listen rather than take the huff, because if he doesn’t shape up he’ll be left behind.”

*DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Lyon v Celtic this evening – only in your champion CQN. 


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